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Today! Redeemer pastor & atheist launch podcast: Hinge

Can two people be friends while talking about issues that deeply divide them? OpEd

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Cory Markum, skeptic, & Pastor Drew Sokol, assistant pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, East Side

 

It sounds like the opening to a joke: a pastor and an atheist get together to determine the truth of Christianity. But that’s actually a good summary of this past year’s work by Drew Sokol and Cory Markum.

Today, the pair of interrogators launch the result, a 10-part podcast “Hinge” that collects personal stories and interviews with experts that tackle the central questions of Christianity: Who was Jesus? Did he really live? Did he really die? And what of the resurrection?

Hinge podcast premier is DELAYED \ 7am, December 14th!

Sokol is currently Director of Community Groups and Evangelism of Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s Upper East Side congregation. Markum grew up in a non-denominational Christian home but now runs a blog called Atheist Republic.

A premise like the one that undergirds this podcast usually gathers an audience that is waiting for a fight. But Sokol and Markum constructed their relationship and the podcast itself with the exact intention of avoiding that kind of contentious relationship. The two men alternate hosting episodes and interview figures from both camps. In their prelude episodes and their debut episode, the two cohosts ask each other, if either of us discovers that we are wrong, are we really willing to give up our beliefs?

Underneath the surface of the podcast is the question of whether two people can have a relationship while engaging in candid, respectful conversations around the very issues upon which they diametrically disagree.

The idea for Hinge started in 2014 while Sokol was a pastor of the Los Angeles area Pacific Crossroads Church, which was launched with the help of funding from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

One Sunday, ten minutes into preaching a sermon, the young pastor had an unnerving moment. He was preaching on Truth—“What is truth? How can I experience something that’s true? How can I find something that will always be true?” As he asked those questions, Sokol was overwhelmed with the thought, “I don’t think I believe this anymore.”

He thought back to the devastation that he had seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in his native New Orleans. He remembered pain that he had witnessed while counseling as a pastor. He thought, too, of hateful things that are done by people to others in the name of Christianity. In the half-hour debut episode, Sokol confesses, “there was a part of me that wanted to leave it all.”

“As a pastor, it’s my job to have answers, and I felt in that moment, ‘I don’t,’” he explains. Sokol continued to preach but also began looking for answers and reassurance. “My closest friends are believers,” he remembers. “I was afraid that if I left the faith I’d lose them… Maybe, I wouldn’t have to start just a new career from scratch. I’d have to start a whole new life.”

Having lived in the “echo chamber” of Christianity for so long, Sokol craved conversation with people from outside the church to help parse out his own thoughts. One day he was listening to the British radio show “Unbelievable?”, which hosts debates on fundamental questions of Christianity between Christians and people from across the board who aren’t Christian. Markum was debating the topic of intelligent design with Christian biologist Jonathan McLatchie.

Listening to Markum’s replies, Sokol was impressed with the atheist’s ability to respectfully approach a belief with which he disagreed. The writer seemed truly interested in learning from the discussion. Sokol sent Markum a message on Facebook and the two became long distance friends. Sokol’s original idea of running a podcast of a pastor grew into a better idea: what if he and Markum embarked on the questions together, each sharing their unique perspectives?

Markum agreed. The two began working on their podcast in 2016.

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They decided that Hinge would focus on one Christian claim in particular. As Markum explains in the podcast’s first episode, the entire validity of Christianity hinges on a single event at a specific point in time: the resurrection of Jesus. One can accept the life and sayings of Jesus as a great teacher and not accept that he was God. But if Jesus really did die and come back to life, Markum acknowledges that he would need to reconsider his complete rejection of miracles and the divine. Conversely, if Jesus did not really come back from the dead, Sokol concedes that nothing else in the faith matters. Jesus would be a teacher of philosophy on the level of Confucius and Socrates, but not a savior.

To answer this question, the show hosts many historians such as Larry Hurtado, Robert M. Price, Craig Blomberg, and Michael Bird. The list also of guests also includes Christian author Philip Yancey, science writer Michael Shermer, anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann, radio host Drew Marshall, hip hop artist Andy Mineo, and several others.

With brutal candor from both of its cohosts and a dogged push forward through the fog of belief and uncertainty, “Hinge” promises to open doors for discussion between Christians and nonbelievers to the true benefit of both.

What are your discussions of faith and non-faith like?

 

Listen to the first Hinge podcast on December 7 --- DELAYED \ We will update the date of the premier as soon as we get it!


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